Business is Hot! Hot! Hot! at 2 Hot Peppers

Mike Nelson photo

Brandon, FL Ė "I plan to be a millionaire before I retire!" Thatís quite a bold statement from someone whose disability makes it difficult to sit or stand for long periods of time. But Mike Nelson is solidly on the road to becoming a millionaire because of his drive and persistence along with a little help from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). VR helps people with mental and physical disabilities get or keep a job.

Mike was having difficulty finding a job that would allow him a flexible schedule to accommodate his bad back, so when self-employment was offered as an option, he jumped at the chance (figuratively speaking)!

After sharing his vision for his new business with VR Counselor Antonio Reyes in 2011, Tony connected him with Certified Business Technical Assistance Consultant Karen Magee. Karen helped Mike put together a proper business plan and pushed him to continue his research into whether his business would be viable in the recovering economy.

Now he has the spicy job of selling salsa and hot sauces at arts and crafts festivals around the southeast. It took some time to get the business up and running but after some hard work and perseverance on Mikes part, his business, 2 Hot Peppers, is on track to be a success.

The business planning was not always smooth sailing. "We had a rough start because I wanted to get it done quicker," says Mike. "But I thank Karen many times over for pushing me the way she did. I learned so much about business from just doing the research and crunching the numbers. Now I know how much money I make from each jar. Before, I was losing money, but now Iím making money. She believes in the client and what they have to offer."

After Tony received a promotion, Mikeís case was transferred to Jeannette Samuels to finish up. "Tony started the whole self-employment process. He was there for all of the frustration and angst. I came in at the tail end when the business started and had the pleasure of seeing Mikeís business come to fruition and be a success."

Business is booming for Mike. "Iíve traveled from Key West to Jekyll Island to Pensacola and everywhere in between going to the arts and crafts festivals," he says. "Iíve found that seafood festivals are the best for us because our two top selling products are the blue crab salsa and dip."

He recently traveled to Maryland to talk to the company owners who make the salsa and dip. They were so impressed with Mikeís numbers they offered him the exclusive distributorship in the southeast for the blue crab salsa.

Karen and Jeannette are very proud of Mike. Jeannette says, "2 Hot Peppers really allows Mikeís personality and his strengths to shine. This is perfect for him so he can still bring in a good income using the skills and abilities he already has." So look for Mike at your next arts and crafts or seafood festival. Heíll be the one whoís heating things up!

Jeannette encourages other VR counselors to try self-employment when other mainstream jobs wonít work for their customers. "I know some counselors are afraid to jump into the self-employment side of things, but I would encourage them to think outside the box even though itís a lot of work. Itís been a growing experience for me as a counselor because this was my first self-employment case and I got to see it to the end."

Floridaís Vocational Rehabilitation program is committed to helping people with disabilities become part of Americaís workforce. Our employer-focused website,, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 80 offices across Florida, and last year helped 6,523 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit